Simon McNamara, CAO at RBS

Simon McNamara, CAO at RBS

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has installed advanced “human” artificial intelligence (AI) to help its staff answer customer queries.

The bank says a two month trial has been “successful “and the AI, known as ‘Luvo’, is to be rolled out more widely to support employees, and perhaps bring some tender loving care (TLC) with it.

It was piloted among 1,200 staff who manage relationships with small businesses, and Luvo is able to understand questions and then filter through “huge amounts of information in a split second” before responding with the answer.

If Luvo is unable to find the answer, it passes the query on to a member of staff who can solve more complex problems.

It will support staff to help them answer customer queries more quickly and easily. So humans can relax for now – they are still needed.

Simon McNamara, CAO at RBS, says: “Its potential is huge and we’ll be exploring if Luvo could talk to customers directly to answer straightforward questions, freeing up time for our staff to answer complex issues.”

RBS says typical questions Luvo answers with staff, through web chat include: “My customer has lost their card – what steps do they need to take now? My customer has locked their PIN – how do they unlock it? How do I order a card-reader for my customer?”

Whilst banks have been using artificial intelligence for some time, RBS says Luvo is “unique” in that a “human” like personality has been created for it.

RBS says this makes it easier for employees to interact with and seek help from Luvo.

The bank says: “Its unique psychological profile means it has a warmth to its personality, is approachable, creative and uses a combination of intuition and reasoning when answering questions.”

Like humans, Luvo has to be trained when dealing with new subject matter, but RBS says “crucially, it learns from its mistakes and its answers become more accurate over time”.

UPDATE 6 October 2016

IBM and RBS have launched the first pilot with customers of Luvo, which will use IBM Watson Conversation, a cloud-based cognitive service.

The bank will begin making Luvo accessible via its webchat service in December, starting with around 10% of RBS customers in Scotland that use webchat, helping to answer specific queries.

If this pilot is successful, Luvo is expected to roll out to the bank’s NatWest customers.